During the college recruiting process, it was not lost on Kalif Phillips, nor the UNC Charlotte 49ers football coaching staff, that Jerry Richardson Stadium is located on a curvy piece of asphalt in the northwest corner of campus named Phillips Road.“(The decision to play at Charlotte) wasn’t that hard,” said Phillips. “There’s a couple of signs here. The football stadium is right off Phillips Road. That’s one of the things they got me in on. ... ”Phillips is hoping to make his own mark on Charlotte’s fledgling football program this fall as one of six players on the 49ers’ roster from Cabarrus County. The others are Danny Book and Jason Eury, both Hickory Ridge High graduates; E.J. Rhinehart, Northwest Cabarrus; Quintin Gay, Central Cabarrus; and Blake Brewer, Cannon School.Charlotte will open its inaugural season on Aug. 31 at home against Campbell University. Phillips, a running back, and his five teammates from Cabarrus are all expected to make an immediate impact on the team’s fortunes.Phillips capped a dazzling career at A.L. Brown last year by rushing for more than 1,800 yards and scoring 25 touchdowns as a senior. He is a true freshman on a 49ers team that has plenty of redshirt freshmen and sophomores, many of whom transferred from other schools.Based on how preseason workouts are going, Phillips could be Charlotte’s starting running back for the season opener.“Kalif (is) competing to play this year at running back,” said head coach Brad Lambert. “He’s had a good August. I’m just really pleased with where he is right now. He’s picking up our offense, and he’s a guy that came in here in shape. So we’re just really proud of him.”All six of the Cabarrus natives play on offense. Blocking for Phillips and the other running backs, which may also include Quintin Gay, will be Danny Book, a 2010 Hickory Ridge graduate.Book has secured the starting job at right tackle. He spent a redshirt season at the University of Albany before transferring to Charlotte in fall 2012. Since then, he’s earned a full scholarship, he said.“It’s been pretty much like we had a season, just with no games,” said Book, a redshirt sophomore. “We practiced and everything. We had a whole offseason and a whole summer workout. And now we’re looking pretty good.”Eury, an halfback, and Rhinehart, a wide receiver, are both redshirt freshmen; they also spent the 2012-13 school year with the 49ers program. Both were all-South Piedmont 3A Conference players as seniors during the 2011 season.Eury said he dreamed of playing football at Charlotte, even before it was announced that it would start a football program. He’s said he’s third on the depth chart at his position.Rhinehart is tall and lanky at 6-feet-4 inches, 205 pounds – the kind of athletic receiver quarterbacks often target. Lambert said Rhinehart can earn meaningful playing time with a “good rest of the month.”Gay is a redshirt junior who played two years at Lenoir-Rhyne before transferring to Charlotte last fall. A solid all-around athlete when he was at Central Cabarrus he graduated in 2010 – Gay played two years on defense at Lenoir-Rhyne. He’s glad to be playing running back at Charlotte.Brewer understood what it is like to play for a new program before he joined the 49ers this summer. Cannon School fielded its first varsity team when Brewer was a sophomore.As preseason workouts were close to winding down, Brewer believed he had as much chance to be the 49ers’ starting kicker as he did to be redshirted this season.Though some of the Cabarrus players may be a year or two away from making an impact, Lambert considers Charlotte’s neighboring regions to be vital to his recruiting base.“We look at Cabarrus, Union, Mecklenburg, Iredell … all these counties are our counties, and we want to do well locally,” he said. “Obviously we have some good players out of Cabarrus County, and we want to continue that, and we will.“It’s so close to us that we’ve got to do a good job and maintain good relationships with those people. It’s a good county, and we’re excited about the people that are coming in.”
Friday, Aug. 23, 2013
UNCC football has 6 from Cabarrus on 49ers’ roster
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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